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Beyond a Day at the Spa: The Future of Massage Therapy

The new model of how massage therapy in healthcare means a new way of thinking in the classroom.

If you ask Ron McKerracher where his creativity as a professional and as an instructor is leading him, he’ll give you a surprising answer.


McKerracher isn’t a professor of communications or English literature. He’s a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) with his own practice in Toronto and is a part time professor of massage therapy at Mohawk College.

Although he works primarily with his hands, McKerracher believes it is important to share with his students and clients the importance of words.

“In any medical setting there is a disconnect between medical language and its understanding,” explains McKerracher. ”I love the idea of taking complex knowledge and articulating it so that people can have an empowered understanding of their circumstances.”

McKerracher’s emphasis on communicating medical language is intentional. In his practice and in his teaching, he’s reflecting a paradigm shift about how we think about massage therapy.

“Historically, the place has been outside the healthcare field as an alternative field,” says McKerracher about the identification of massage therapy as a ‘day at the spa’. “The nice thing about our field is that it is growing and becoming more mainstream. With that there is a responsibility to become really integrated as a healthcare practitioner in the context of other healthcare practitioners.”

McKerracher is dedicated to helping the next generation of massage therapists understand their place within the healthcare treatment model- where physician referrals for ailments such as back pain have become more commonplace.

Within the classroom, and at Mohawk’s Massage Therapy Student Clinic, he believes that students must master more than just technique; they must also have a strong understanding of how to develop goal-oriented treatment plans that can effectively help a client with their physical pain. And unquestionably, they must also be skilled communicators.

“As a therapist, we have the unique opportunity to have an hour at a time with our client, so we can relate complex issues in a way they understand. We can become a resource to them.”

This article was originally published in the 2015 volume of Quanta, Mohawk College’s annual celebration of research and innovation.

Author Andrea Johnson is Promotions and Industry Liaison Officer for iDeaWORKS and the editor of Quanta.

About Mohawk

Mohawk College educates and serves 30,000 full-time, part-time, apprenticeship and international students at three campuses and two City School locations at the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre and the Central Public Library in Hamilton, Ontario. Mohawk has ranked first among all Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area colleges in student satisfaction for seven consecutive years and first in graduate satisfaction for the past five years. Mohawk ranks 15th among all colleges in Canada for applied research activity and has been named among Canada’s greenest employers and the region’s top employers for the past three years.